In August 2012 the Macedonian government announced a nation-wide ban to enter the Macedonian forests because of forest fires.
This meant that it was not allowed to enter the forests or mountains, on penalty of a 3000 euro fine.
The sudden ban was of course a disaster for those who came to Macedonia in order to hike in the mountains, like we did!
In some cases it was possible to obtain a permit to enter certain parts of the forest. In order to get such a permit for a hike near Vevcani, we went to the Forest Authorities (Makedonski Sumi) in Struga.
We found out that even the Forest Authorities were not up-to-date with the status of the ban, and whether or not we could obtain permits. After a discussion of over an hour, they decided to help us. If my girlfriend would not have spoken Macedonian or without us being so persistent, we would never have gotten this permit.
There we also found out that Vevcani and surrounding recently were proclaimed a National Park, and that officially we should arrange the permit in Vevcani itself (which is quite some kilometers away from Struga).
Fortunately, the employees of the Forest Office in Struga were so friendly to contact their colleagues in Vevcani by phone, and we obtained oral permission AND the phone number of the major in Vevcani in case we would be stopped by the police.
I am glad that we were able to do the hiking near Vevcani, because this turned out to be one of our best hikes thusfar in Macedonia.
I am less glad with the way the Macedonian government makes it nearly impossible to enjoy the Macedonian nature, with their unrealistic and badly executed ban. Hopefully this will not happen again, otherwise tourists who come to enjoy the forests and mountain will have to look for destinations outside of Macedonia in the future...
The Forest Office can be found on a industrial area just outside of Struga along the M4 road. See the link for the location on Google Maps: N41.18391 E20.67043
Also see http://www.mkdsumi.com.mk/
Address: Servisna zona bb
+389 (0)46 786 788
+389 (0)46 782 566
fax +389 (0)46 786 789
Struga is also known for its wonderful bridges over the river Crn Drim.
At the spectacular poetic event entitled "Bridges", poets read their works from the bridge under which the River Crn Drim flows out of Lake Ohrid, before an audience of some ten thousand people. Some of the greatest poets of the world are recipients of the Golden Wreath, the highest accolade of the festival